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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the primary diagnostic tool for psychiatric disorders, phobias can only be diagnosed if the object or situation that invokes fear is present in a person's life.

For example, an individual who has a fear of spiders (arachnophobia) will not be diagnosed as phobic if they live in a climate with no spiders present. Although the thought of spiders may cause that person distress, if they do not have to experience it regularly, it isn't a true phobia.

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